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Volume 313

Happy new year! Hmm, but is it though? Lockdown 3 vibes tell a slightly different story. But we’re back with some 2021 coolsh*t to take your mind off it all. We’re kicking off the new year with dancing droids, a boujee bus, handheld hacking and a tribute to a legend.

Robo Boogie.

The end of year video has become a staple for most companies these days. And that by no means excludes us, as we’ve just had a pop ourselves (which, if you missed, you can still watch here, btw). Shameless plug aside, we were pretty happy with how our year in review vid turned out. But hindsight is a wonderful thing, and looking back now, it’s clear that we missed a trick by not including any dancing robots. That was the artistic direction opted for by Boston Dynamics, who decided to feature a few members of their legion of robots shaking and jiving to The Contours’ ‘Do You Love Me?’. Which, as Elon Musk pointed out, is a pretty ominous choice of song title. Because if the answer happens to be no, then God help us all.

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Hack of All Trades.

I feel immensely privileged to have been at the tail-end of the final generation of kids who were forced to actually go outside to have fun. At best, you might have had a Gameboy, but for the most part we were lucky enough to spend our tender years entertaining ourselves by kicking bushes and throwing rocks at pigeons. Things are a little different now though. Case in point: Flipper, the digital dolphin Tamagotchi who you feed by hacking stuff. Flipper holds left-wing political views, listens to techno, and has no pronounced gender identity. Which, if you add in ‘uses mummy and daddy’s trust fund to buy drugs’, could describe every other student at the University of Bristol. Flipper was set up by a group of Russian hackers, who insist that hacking has been given a bad name in recent years and needn’t be nefarious. Co-creator Alex Kulagin claims, “while the modern meaning of this word “hacker” is to break or steal, its initial meaning was to learn something deeply”. Yeah, like someone’s PIN number, for example. But nonetheless, with schools being closed for the foreseeable future, this could be a good one for the parents out there to keep the kids busy – and, if things go well, to make a few extra bucks on the side.

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Logo Rhythms.

Speaking of people looking at your files without consent, the CIA rebranded this week. And the internet is having none of it. Sadly, the CIA learned – as I learned when I tried wearing a suede tasselled shirt one time – it’s hard to reinvent yourself without people noticing. It’s not yet known exactly what inspired the rebrand, but the general consensus on the internet is that techno posters must have surely provided the muse. Many were quick to point out the similarities with the Boiler Room logo. Some even think it’s building up to a top-secret Julian Assange B2B Edward Snowdon DJ set. In fairness, the rebrand was intended to do away with the CIA’s stuffy, white, ivy-league reputation and to encourage more diverse applicants “from people of all backgrounds and walks of life”. What they didn’t account for, though, is that the primary ‘walk of life’ this particular image appeals to will include a bloke known as ‘Ketamine Steve’ who thought he was on his way to Fabric.

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All Killer, No Chlorophyller.

As humans, we have a complicated relationship with the sun. On the one hand, it makes us happy, strengthens our immune systems, and we need it to grow food. But if you look at it for too long you go blind and if you’re not packing sun cream it turns you into an aching, peeling lobster. Life is full of nuance, and this is no different. But we can add another huge tick in the sun’s pros column, due to its newly discovered artistic potential. London-based artist Almuneda Romero harnesses the sun’s rays by printing complex images directly onto leaves. And the results are properly mental. With no dye involved at all, Romero exposes the leaves to direct sunlight for weeks at a time to damage their photosynthetic machinery and force their pigment to change naturally from green to yellow to expend the excess energy, thus creating her design. And if you don’t entirely understand my explanation, don’t worry – because neither do I. But I’m into it.

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All Aboard.

Wow, Tamgotchis and school buses – we really are in a time warp back to childhood for this week’s coolsh*t. But why not? Like many others, another lockdown means I’m currently sat in my childhood bedroom waiting for my mum to bring me a cup of tea, so it kind of feels appropriate. But this particular school bus isn’t like your conventional British one. On my old bus, for example, I saw a girl receive a surprise hair cut from behind, a 12-year-old light up a roll-up and get away with it, and one kid even got smacked with a guitar (and I’m not confident I ever saw him get up, so he may well still be there). You wouldn’t believe it was the number ‘666’ as well – not a joke. But Craig J. Gordnier has attempted to improve on the conventional school bus experience, by spending the last year transforming a 1999 Bluebird bus into a pretty posh, portable living space. It’s now fully kitted out with a working shower, queen size bed, artificial fireplace and even an espresso bar. And the best part: it’s covered in solar panels so isn’t killing the planet. Respect. Although I still think my bus probably sounds more fun.

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MF DOOM's Day.

The world is one legend lighter this week, following the news that Daniel Dumile, better known as MF DOOM, passed away at 49 years old. Doom will go down as one of the most intricate lyricists of all time, as well as a trailblazer in the underground hip hop scene in the 2000s. Plus, I read this week, that since he wore a mask all the time, he would often get other people to put it on and go perform his shows for him, which is just top-level shithousery. The Metal Faced Terrorist’s legacy goes beyond music though; being a known graffiti bomber himself, Doom’s influence was massive in the graffiti community. From Brooklyn, to London, to Melbourne, to Helsinki, artists all around the world have been busy this week painting their respects. So I reckon I’ll leave you on some of the late, great MF DOOM’s lyrics that seem particularly poignant given our present predicament: “I found a way to get peace of mind for years/ And left the hell alone, turn a deaf ear to the cellular phone/ Send me a letter, or better, we could see each other in real life/ Just so you could feel me like a steel knife.”

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